Top 100 Horror Movies of All Time
Top 100 Horror Movies: Hello, horror fans! Grab your popcorn and join me as I count down the Top 100 Horror Movies of All Time. For the sake of this list, I have not included kaiju/giant monster adventure-thrillers such as Gojira (1954) and King Kong (1933) or musicals with horror elements such as The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) or Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007) as such films would be fitting for other genre lists. However, films that operate as both horror and thriller do count, so there is a little bit of genre mixing since not every horror film always just lands into the one genre only. Also, I’m not just judging films on scariness, but rather a mix of factors like scares, influence, and craftsmanship.
Honorable Mentions that nearly cracked the 100 (alphabetical):
The Beyond (1981), The Brood (1979), Candyman (1992), Child’s Play (1988), The Conjuring (2013), Dawn of the Dead (2004), Grindhouse (2007), High Tension (2003), The Hills Have Eyes (1977), Hostel (2005), The Howling (1981), Insidious (2010), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), It Follows (2014), Martyrs (2008), The Masque of the Red Death (1964), The Mummy (1932), Trick ‘r Treat (2007), Tucker and Dale vs Evil (2010), 28 Weeks Later (2007), Vampyr (1932), What We Do in the Shadows (2014), You’re Next (2011)
“It’s not of this world. It’s Sadako’s fury. And she’s put a curse on us.”
Director: Hideo Nakata
Cast: Nanako Matsushima, Hiroyuki Sanada, Rikiya Ōtaka
IMDB Plot: Ruthlessly murdered by her father, the ghost of a seer’s daughter kills all those seven days after they watch the strange contents of a mysterious video tape, unless the viewer finds the escape clause.
A major film in the J-horror craze of the late 90s and early 00s, Ringu is still disturbing to this day. The film caused an explosion of American remakes of J-horror films, with Gore Verbinski remaking Ringu itself as the polished by less effective The Ring (2002). While the videotape itself in the remake is creepier, Ringu features much stronger character development (mainly with the male lead) and subtler storytelling.
“Look at me, Damien! It’s all for you.”
Director: Richard Donner
Cast: Gregory Peck, Lee Remick, Harvey Stephens
IMDB Plot: Mysterious deaths surround an American ambassador. Could the child that he is raising actually be the Antichrist? The Devil’s own son?
The death scenes in The Omen are among the most expertly shot in all of horror, featuring at least four unforgettable macabre scenes; the crazy decapitation scene really gets me. Donner has a sure hand with his direction throughout, and Peck and Remick are first-rate as the unsure parents of Damien. Speaking of Damien, Stephens delivers one of the top “creepy kid” performances in cinema.
“It was only the wind, my dear.”
Director: Jack Clayton
Cast: Deborah Kerr, Peter Wyngarde, Megs Jenkins
IMDB Plot: A young governess for two children becomes convinced that the house and grounds are haunted.
Spooky and elegant to this day, Clayton’s The Innocents is among the finest of haunted house features. It takes its time in its build-up, eventually rewarding patient viewers with satisfying reveals and payoffs. The film manages to make ponds and candles creepy, and it has Kerr delivering a superb performance.
“We didn’t come here to fight monsters, we’re not equipped for it.”
Director: Jack Arnold
Cast: Richard Carlson, Julie Adams, Richard Denning
IMDB Plot: A strange prehistoric beast lurks in the depths of the Amazonian jungle. A group of scientists try to capture the animal and bring it back to civilization for study.
The quintessential 50s horror movie in my opinion, The Creature from the Black Lagoon still provides many exciting thrills to this day. Adventurous storytelling, marvelous underwater photography, top-notch sound effects and makeup, and well-established characters make the film stand its ground even though it’s 62-years-old as of now. Who could ever forget the shocking noise of the creature?
“That’s why I remembered that night…”
Director: Masaki Kobayashi
Cast: Rentarô Mikuni, Michiyo Aratama, Misako Watanabe
IMDB Plot: A collection of four Japanese folk tales with supernatural themes.
Among the most beautiful-looking films I’ve ever laid my eyes on is Kwaidan; it’s also the longest film on this list, running over three hours. Vivid in its use of color and art direction, the film also has the ghostly storytelling to match its dazzling visuals. The second and third chapters – “The Woman of the Snow” and “Hoichi the Earless” – are especially great in this supernatural anthology. Make sure you watch the full 182-minute cut and not any of the chopped-up versions.
“We who are of noble blood may not follow the wishes of our hearts.”
Director: Robert Wiene
Cast: Werner Krauss, Conrad Veidt, Friedrich Feher
IMDB Plot: Hypnotist Dr. Caligari uses a somnambulist, Cesare, to commit murders.
The earliest film to appear on this list, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari remains stunning and influential to this day. It’s one of the go-to examples of rich German Expressionism on film, and it comes with one of the earlier twist endings in cinematic history. This one is a pleasure for avid horror fans and curious film buffs alike.
“I bet you can squeal like a pig. Weeeeeeee!”
Director: John Boorman
Cast: Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty, Ronny Cox
IMDB Plot: Intent on seeing the Cahulawassee River before it’s turned into one huge lake, outdoor fanatic Lewis Medlock takes his friends on a river-rafting trip they’ll never forget into the dangerous American back-country.
The realistic backwoods fight for survival portrayed in Deliverance has been mimicked many times before but has rarely been matched. The man-rape scene scarred me for life when I first saw it, and the film has many other tense and memorable moments as well – including one of Voight’s character scaling a cliff. Reynolds also turns in one of his top performances here, unforgettable as the bow-wielding Lewis. To this day I get a little nervous going on trips to the woods because of Deliverance; that’s the mark of a powerful movie.
“I see dead people.”
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Cast: Bruce Willis, Haley Joel Osment, Toni Collette
IMDB Plot: A boy who communicates with spirits that don’t know they’re dead seeks the help of a disheartened child psychologist.
One of the seminal films of the 90s, The Sixth Sense dominated 1999 and remains Shyamalan’s magnum opus; unfortunately his career has taken a nosedive in recent years. Willis and especially young Osment are stellar, but it’s Shyamalan’s meticulous writing and direction that are the real stars here. The ending of the film is so good that it’s still talked about often even after seventeen years.
“Be afraid. Be very afraid.”
Director: David Cronenberg
Cast: Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis, John Getz
IMDB Plot: A brilliant but eccentric scientist begins to transform into a giant man/fly hybrid after one of his experiments goes horribly wrong.
A rare example of a remake being superior to the original, Cronenberg’s The Fly is his ultimate effort in body horror cinema. The mind-blowing practical effects and Goldblum’s brilliant performance make this a homerun in sci-fi horror. It’s a truly sublime mix of romance and repulsion.
“Sabrina, don’t just stare at it, eat it.”
Director: Mary Harron
Cast: Christian Bale, Justin Theroux, Josh Lucas, Chloë Sevigny
IMDB Plot: A wealthy New York investment banking executive hides his alternate psychopathic ego from his co-workers and friends as he delves deeper into his violent, hedonistic fantasies.
A deadly dark satire based on the Bret Easton Ellis novel, American Psycho features — in my opinion — Bale’s finest performance to date as crazed yuppie Patrick Bateman. He disappears into the role and makes us both laugh and wince in equal measures. Harron’s deft direction and the quotable dialogue are also major plusses. Now excuse me, I have to go return some videotapes.
This was 50-41 of our Top 100 Horror Movies. Check back for more!